Gail Shister to Ines Sainz: Stop Dressing Like a Hooters Waitress

One of the country's first woman sportswriters takes the curvaceous, controversial reporter to task

The Ines Sainz-New York Jets imbroglio brings back memories of my sportswriting days in the mid-‘70s.
Quick recap: Sainz, a reporter for Mexico’s TV Azteca with a fondness for spray-on clothing, was verbally harassed by Jets players in the locker room after practice on September 11. As a result, the NFL ordered training programs on proper workplace conduct for every team.

Thirty-five years later and nothing has changed.

As one of the first woman sportswriters in the U.S., I had to fight to be taken seriously by the athletes I covered (all male), their coaches (all male), my editors (all male) and my colleagues (all male). Unlike Ms. Sainz, I did not dress like a waitress at Hooters.

My first full-time job was in New Orleans, in 1975. The sports department was comprised entirely of good  ol’  boys from below the Mason-Dixon Line, some of whom used the N-word in casual conversation. They were all suspicious of outsiders.

As outsiders go, I was from Neptune.

They were male Southerners, I was a female Yankee. They were Christians, I was a Christ killer. Some of them were not college graduates, I had a freshly-minted Masters degree from Northwestern. They lusted for beautiful women. So did I.

One of my earliest battles was with my cigar-smoking editor, who said women didn’t belong in the locker room. (He also worshiped Elvis Presley and left the building every day at 11 a.m. to drink his lunch.)

Flash forward to the Sainz-Jets controversy. Asked for comment, Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs said women shouldn’t be in NFL locker rooms. Going further, Washington running back Clinton Portis said women exposed to a team of naked gladiators couldn’t help but check out “53 men’s packages.”  (Paging FedEx.)

Thirty-five years later and nothing has changed.

Two conflicting feelings here. When a team issues a media credential to someone – anyone – it is with the understanding that the individual has earned the privilege. Therefore, all credentialed media types should be treated equally and with respect.

On the other hand, when a credentialed, curvaceous reporter with long blond hair shows up at an NFL practice in skin-tight jeans, the message is different. She reeks of pheromones, no matter what country she’s from or what language she speaks.

And while that may be momentarily amusing to a group of high-testosterone jocks, ultimately it is demeaning to generations of pioneering women who forced open the locker-room doors through their hard work and perseverance, not their wardrobes.

Thirty-five years later and nothing has changed.

GAIL SHISTER, TV columnist for the Inquirer for 25 years, teaches writing at Penn and is a columnist for She writes for The Philly Post on Tuesdays.